The City Council plans to discuss three ballot proposals at its informal meeting Monday despite concerns from City Attorney Chris Melcher.
In an email to council Thursday, Melcher said the ballot proposals were being rushed through without community discussion or public notice.
“It is surprising that (council President) Scott Hente chose to put these proposed ballot measures on a council informal agenda without consultation with the mayor or any of his designees as required in the council’s own rules,” Melcher said in the email, which The Gazette obtained Friday.
"It is also surprising that Scott would give preferential access to a council informal session for these individuals, and not ask them at the very least to bring these matters up first in the citizen comment section at formal council session," Melcher said.
In an interview, Hente said Melcher apparently doesn’t know the rules.
“Unfortunately, I guess I understand the rules better than he does because I quoted the rules, and he didn’t get them right,” Hente said. “It does not say anywhere in the charter, or the rules that I have to consult with the mayor.”
Melcher did not respond to requests for comment. But Cindy Aubrey, the city’s chief communications officer, said the City Attorney’s Office wasn’t consulted about the ballot proposals beforehand and the measures were provided to Melcher for the first time late Thursday.
Hente said late items have been added to the agenda before.
“I got asked this morning by the mayor’s office to put something on the agenda on Tuesday that I’ve never even seen before, so don’t tell me that this is the only time this has ever gotten done,” he said.
The three ballot proposals in question were brought forward by citizens.
John Weiss, publisher of the Colorado Springs Independent newspaper, is proposing increasing council members’ pay in April 2015 from $6,250 annually to up to $48,000.
Activist Canda Kalef is proposing the other two. One would make the city attorney an elected position, and the other would take away the mayor’s signing authority over contracts for Colorado Springs Utilities, which the council, acting as the Utilities Board, oversees.
Mayor Steve Bach urged the council not to support any of the three ballot proposals.
“These are piecemeal charter amendments being rushed forward at the last minute by special interest groups without proper council-mayor due diligence and community consultation,” Bach said in an email to council Thursday night.
Bach said the council should instead engage him and the community in an expedited, transparent and comprehensive review of the entire city charter.
“If you decide to place any of these charter amendments on the April ballot, I will regrettably have no choice but to vigorously oppose them as bad policy not in the best interests of our community,” Bach said.
A fourth ballot proposal also will be up for council discussion Monday. The proposal, which has been discussed in public before, asks voters to allow the city to spend a higher percentage of the Trails, Open Space and Parks tax on park maintenance.